As stories go, the tale of collecting Nellie wasn't quite what I’d expected. I drove two hours to Nellie, two days before National Lockdown (version 1) was rumoured to be hitting us. It was supposed to be our first meeting, I’d go away, get prepared, go back to get her on Monday…but life threw us a curveball (or two), breeders were worried they would be stuck with entire litters and so my mother and I ended up back in the car with two puppies on their way to new homes. When most panic bought loo roll, we panic bought puppies. Only we weren’t panicked in the slightest. A dog had been on the cards for a long time, I'd been searching, considering breeds, following some gorgeous Cocker Spaniels on Instagram (as you do) and the minute I saw Nellie's litter advertised I knew it was the right thing for me and the right time.
And here we find ourselves, my mum has Alfie - Nellie’s brother - and I’ve got my dream dog - little Nell!
That said, I could have been more prepared. I made do with what I had available, and I hate to say it as a small business, but Amazon Prime was my saviour in the early days, especially as I was on my own (I'm a single dog mama). So, let’s assume you’ve now carefully selected your puppy as well and the time has come to bring your new family member home, what are the essential items on the shopping list for a new puppy…?
Firstly - INSURANCE! You won't regret it, puppies get into everything, eat strange things, you don't know whether they have allergies etc.. it's the first thing I recommend you sort. Insure them with as much cover as you can, especially for year 1.
And while you're working on that, register them with a vet and pre-book your vaccinations so you aren't delayed later on. Nellie is in a pet club scheme so all the costs are covered and I just pay a small monthly fee. Join that before your first vaccinations and those will all be covered.
Next up... Getting your home prepared:
- Decide whether you’d like to crate train, or whether you will set any boundaries in your home, including invisible ones. You may find stair gates are useful, or a pen so your puppy can be contained but have room to roam slightly. I personally didn’t crate train as I preferred Nellie to be able to move around but I admit a pen would have been helpful sometimes!
- Consider comfort – ask the breeder for a blanket so your puppy can smell their mum & littermates. It should help them feel more secure. I also invested in a tough, reusable heat pad and a heartbeat sheep for her bed, which is a Ralph & Co nest bed. She's still in the same bed now, they last amazingly well! You’ll need blankets and soft toys that are puppy friendly too.
- Ditch the puppy pads, they only encourage accidents in the house so unless you’re training your dog to go on puppy pads because you’re in an apartment, just get focused and carry your pup outside at the first sign and at regular intervals. Even if you put them by the door overnight I guarantee they'll pee somewhere else anyway! Instead I recommend you invest in stain remover, odour eliminator, carpet cleaner, maybe a steam mop… or a cleaner (haha I wish!)
- Poo bags! Squillions of them! Ideally they’ll be compostable as they are the most environmentally friendly.
- With dog theft on the rise, think about home security – I definitely recommend an indoor camera (this is the one I use) and a ring doorbell. If they store the footage then even better. I can dial in and see Nellie at any time, even if just from another room in the house.
- Get a pup’s eye view – get on the floor, see what they can see.
Does it look dangerous, chewable or like a small place where they may get stuck/you won’t be able to reach them? If so make some changes. Block off anywhere you don’t want them to go, make sure cables are out of reach as well as anything else they may chew.
If you have a fluffy rug for example, roll it up and put it somewhere safe for a while (I learnt that one the hard way).
Remove anything sentimental, it can come back later when your puppy is trained.
Look for small items lying around that could be chewed or be choking hazards and clear them away.
Make sure your waste is kept securely in a bin they can’t get into, even if it’s tipped over!
- Is it summer? Consider how you’ll keep your puppy cool – you could try cooling mats, a paddling pool (supervised of course) or invest in ice trays to make your own frozen treats.
The trip home:
- How do you intend for your puppy to travel home? If your puppy will ride shotgun, or sit on the back seat then consider a waterproof seat cover in case of accidents. Nellie was too small for a car harness at this stage so you may wish to consider a safely secured crate or ‘car seat’.
- Make sure you have water available too. My water bottle has proven to be an invaluable asset, and comes on all of our walks.
Training & Playtime:
- Pet corrector spray - we used this sparingly, and only for danger. I would stuff it up my sleeve or hide behind my arm so she couldn't tell where it was coming from and combined it with a firm no.
- You actually can’t have enough toys to entertain a puppy. Think about what may tire them out mentally too, like a toy you can stuff with food, or a Kong Wobbler for example. Nellie loves crinkly toys, so I recommend Tilly the Tiger. Olive the Octopus is hugely popular with puppies too because of the dangly legs, but you can shop all toys here.
- You’ll need to get them used to being handled all over, including being brushed. I started to pretend to trim Nellie’s nails when she was really small. She also went in the bath before the shower was ever switched on. Invest in puppy safe grooming essentials like soaps, and grooming brushes, nail clippers etc. I use a human tangle teezer on Nellie, as I didn't know they make dog ones especially, but to be honest it works brilliantly!
- Puppies do run through their own poop, it just happens, sorry folks. But I recommend these cleansing mitts so you can mitigate the disaster ASAP!
- Don’t forget the essentials – a food bowl & water bowl (one they can’t knock over or smash, ideally not too big so they can reach when they’re teeny). A silicon mat helps stop them slipping around.
- Food – your breeder should give you a little bit of whatever they’re on to take with them. Then source some more for yourself. If you’re going to change their food then use what you have to ease them slowly across, letting their delicate tums get used to any change really slowly. Nellie is on grain free, Barking Heads wet food and they have a puppy version that she had, although she was also fed on cooked chicken as she had a very sensitive tummy when she was small.
Ready for adventures:
- The adventure essentials – a collar (leather is safest and we stock the incredible Molly & Stitch collars which would be my recommendation), a harness, a lead for practicing around the house as well as a long line ready for bigger adventures. I have used an EzyDog Harness with Nellie all the way through and recommend them highly. Charlie & Co are also a fab small business selling quality harnesses!
- You’ll also need to think about a tag that meets UK law – name isn’t required and I personally wouldn’t include it. Nellie’s tags are custom made by the wonderful Twiggy Tags, they say “I am very loved” and then on the reverse my number, house number and postcode and my surname.
- Once vaccinated, your puppy will need a waterproof coat ready for the most intrepid walks (I recommend this one from Hurtta), an Equafleece for the averagely intrepid walks, and a Ruff & Tumble drying coat for the aftermath – whether that’s after a rainy walk, a beach visit or the bath tub! But for day 1, I’d recommend getting a soft tape measure, so you can take measurements for all of these things as your puppy is growing up.
- Be safe, be seen – if you are walking in winter it may well be dark. I got Nellie this light up collar.
I'm sure this list isn't comprehensive, but I've included everything I found I needed for Nellie based on my personal experience. I've linked you to products that I found were quality items that did the job. I hope it helps with your preparation!
Best of luck with your new puppy, take lots of photos!
Zoe (& Nellie of course) x